Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross

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Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Be ahead of the curve, or just celebrate this book's unbirthday – with so many 150th anniversary editions for the original Alice, this one will be met with copious alternatives in the years to come, but won't be much bettered.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 116 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Andersen Press
ISBN: 9781783444120

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I don't know, you wait for one classic and exceedingly odd book to come along regarding a nice, intelligent and welcomingly polite young girl in a fantasia land having the weirdest of adventures only to find it was a dream, and then lo and behold along comes another. This one, of course, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, as it used to be called, is the sequel, and while I've given away the ending, more or less, I haven't begun to define the wackiness on the pages, that make up the meat and bones of the book. If anything the skeleton is a journey across a surreal chess board, meeting real-sized counterparts for the pieces, and encountering people and animals with heads full of poetry. But that meat, madam, that meat…

I've never got on with the first Alice book, neither as a youth nor when the book world was inundated with celebratory editions of varying artistry. But as Through the Looking-Glass is inherently better, more coherent in its stupidity, and more open to a real-world interpretation, I can only see the same thing happening in 2021 when it itself is 150 years old. In the meantime, of course, it's an unbirthday for the book, which as one of the characters says, makes much more sense to celebrate than the rare day itself. But don't turn to these pages for a celebration of the book quite as Carroll knew it.

Not that this is a loose adaptation. Tony Ross, as his introduction notes, recognised Carroll's own juvenile re-edit of the first book, and so has steered the contents of the second to something more suitable for a younger, much more modern child. I can't remember enough of the sequel to point at any clear changes, but I have to say this is a warm breeze of a book – yes, patently dodgy in its weirdness at times, but one containing no antiquated stumbling-blocks or awkwardly ancient phrasings. The text does seem to ring true to Carroll, as well as suit anyone brought up on much more recent works.

I can't say I was completely enamoured of Ross's artwork. Alice seems less distinguished just by having a darker blue dress than usual, but her scraggly hair and dodgy leggings don't help. The Jabberwocky (yes, that poem's in this book, alongside a couple of other famous ones, too) is noticeably less scary than the Tenniel engraving, and on the whole the mood is too modern and rough-and-tumble to have quite the classic nature the text deserves. The sheep doing her knitting could be any animal if her feet were hidden.

So the book isn't perfect, but I didn't absolutely object to the design work undergone, and I do think that Carroll, even with this superior work, needs a fillup to be completely on ball with the modern youngster. Ross did his editing in the early 1990s or before, but it stands the test of time. It is a fillup, and while copious similar editions will arrive over the next five years, for the friendly approach of this volume I would declare it already superior to many.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

If you're here for the fact this is made more user-friendly, we've rounded up the various first Alices that suit various age groups here. If you want both full books in one, you can turn to this.

Buy Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross at Amazon.com.


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